Opinion

Wednesday, Feb 12 2014 06:00 AM

Tech Wire: Is a Macintosh right for you?

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Matthew Sgherzi

In almost all walks of life, there are rivalries. In the MLB, it's the Yankees and Red Sox. In the NBA, it's the Lakers and Celtics. In the NFL, it's the 49ers and the Cowboys. In the world of computers, the long-time rivalry has always been Macintosh and Windows. Since Windows 8 has, so far, been a complete failure in winning over the public acceptance, is it time to jump ship to Macintosh?

Each of these Operating Systems (OS) has a distinct advantage. While Macintosh may be safe and reliable, there are some pros, cons and even myths that exist which you should be aware of before making the decision to start using Apple's OS instead.

Myths:

"Macs can't get infected"

You may be surprised to know that while most will tell you that you're completely safe from viruses and malware on a Macintosh, this is not entirely true. Viruses and malware do indeed exist for Macs and if you're using one, you can get infected. The reason most say that viruses don't exist for Macs is solely due to the fact that you're highly unlikely to get infected since you're in a minority of overall computer users and are a more difficult target. Since about 80-90% of all computer users use a Windows based OS, a hacker can easily put a website on the Internet, upload a virus to it, and he/she is very likely to get a lot of people's computers infected since, statistically speaking, most of the users going to that virus-infected website will be Windows users because they are the majority. However, being in the minority does not mean viruses don't exist, it simply means you're a harder target.

"Macs don't break down"

Like the previous myth, there are also a number of people who will say that Macs don't break and will never run slow. This is also not true. At the end of the day, a Macintosh is a computer. Like any other computer or machine, it can break. Anything from hardware failures to software errors can and often do happen. Macintoshes can also run slow over time. Maintenance can and should be done on a Mac just like a Windows computer; the process is just slightly different. While Macs may be more reliable, it doesn't exclude them from failures and other long-term issues that plague every other computer.

Pros:

Security

As stated above, it is very possible to get infected with a virus on a Macintosh, but it is very unlikely to happen. Because there are fewer users on Macintosh than Windows, by a large margin, it simply makes sense for hackers to target Windows users by programming malware that attacks a Windows-based PC as opposed to a Macintosh. This means you don't need to run an anti-virus or any other security software and you are far less likely to ever get infected when using a Macintosh-based OS.

Reliability

While problems do exist with hardware failures, software issues and long-term use causing performance problems, Macintoshes are considered to be more reliable than a Windows PC. A hard drive crash can still happen, a program can stop working and the system can begin to run slow, but it happens less frequently as hardware and software designed for Macs tend to be of higher quality.

Software

If your goal is to edit movies, music, audio or photos, then a Macintosh would be a wise choice. The multi-media editing software that exists for Macs far outweighs anything that exists for Windows. Anything from GarageBand to iMovie to other file conversion software, the choices for a Mac are vast and you will find most editing studios rely on a Macintosh and its array of multimedia software choices to the job.

Dual-Boot

Ever since Apple dumped the PowerPC processors and began adopting Intel-based chips, users have been able to dual-boot an Apple based machine with both Macintosh and Windows. This process involves splitting the hard drive (digitally speaking), installing Mac and Windows on each partition and using a boot manager to allow you to have the best of both worlds on the same machine.

Cons

Price

If were any major deterrents to getting involved in the Apple eco-verse with Macintosh, it would be the price. While an average Windows PC is priced around $500, an equivalent Macintosh would easily be around $1,200. The prices go even higher for Apple's high-end Macintosh machines. This is due to, once again, the minority of users. Because fewer people use Macs, the price, due to supply-and-demand, will inevitably be higher. Additionally, the higher quality of hardware and software drives the price, as well.

Service

While reliability is greater with a Macintosh, it is possible to still have issues, as we have discovered. The main concern with this is that it becomes far more difficult to find someone qualified to repair it. If your warranty has expired, Apple will charge you a lot of money to fix it as compared to someone who charges you to fix a Windows PC. The number of technicians who not only know how to resolve minor issues, but be able to fix major issues as well as have a firm understanding of Macs, is as small a margin as the number of users who even have a Macintosh computer.

Software

If you rely on Windows software for your day-to-day tasks, you have to come to the reality that your specific software may not be available for a Macintosh. While most of the popular Windows applications, such as Office, have Mac versions, there will be some software that you will find the developer not having a Macintosh equivalent.

Time

One of the other huge drawbacks to becoming involved in the world of Macs is the amount of time it will take to learn the new software. If you're used to terms such as "Windows Update" or "Start Button" then you might find a Mac to be difficult at first. It will take time to learn how to navigate and perform basic tasks with a Macintosh, as it is a completely different Operating System than Windows. The learning-curve will be based on how much time you devote and how quick of a learner you are in addition to your frustration tolerance.

Macintosh is an excellent OS and a great choice for many reasons. Whether or not you use a Windows or a Macintosh computer, neither is better or worse. If you prefer Pepsi over Coca-Cola, it doesn't mean that Coca-Cola is worse; it means that Pepsi is your personal choice. The same goes with a Mac. If, however, you want to jump ship from Windows to Mac, just be aware of the common myths that exist along with the potential frustrations and weigh that against the positives to form your own opinion and make the best choice for you personally.

MATTHEW SGHERZI lives in Tehachapi where he has operated an IT business since 2007 (tehachapicomputers.com).

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